TED Conversations

Randy Speck

Superintendent , Madison District Public Schools

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Is it right for parents to takeover schools? Should "parent trigger" laws give families the ability to take over and manage schools?

Throughout the United States, there is a movement for parents to take a more active role in their local schools. Actually, a more active role is an understatement. The "movement" is for parents to be able to take-over their local school under what is called a "parent trigger." This happens if their local school is deemed to be low performing, as described by each individual state.

Parents have a right to be involved...any quality school will have strong parent and family involvement. But should parents be able to come in and manage the school?


Closing Statement from Randy Speck

What a fantastic conversation and thanks to the TED community for participating. I also want to thank Ben Austin from Parent Revolution for getting involved in the discussion. Your insight was helpful to me, as a school leader.

The reality is, parents should be involved in their schools. They should have a say in the direction of their child's education. How that is accomplished may be a never-ending debate. As a school leader, I want my parents to be active in helping kids read and with their homework, but do to academic level of the family, that may not be an option. I want parents to be in attendance at parent-teacher conferences, football and basketball games, choral and dance recitals and any other activity that involves their child. However, I am also aware that working multiple jobs and shifts may make attending school events difficult, if not impossible. So how do we do this?

Unfortunately, my answer is little bit of "I don't know." But I do know it has to be a "we" that is involved. I don't believe legislatures can solve this issue. I don't believe for charter management companies can solve this problem. The main question becomes when and how are we going to make education in the United States a priority? When are we going to admit that students learn differently, therefore they should be assessed differently. That the neighborhoods you live in and the amount of resources (like food) that you have really do play a role in student achievement. Until we acknowledge...really acknowledge that socio-economics plays a factor, we may never be able to get passed basic debates.

Thank you again TED for being such a great place for people to safely communicate and share.

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    Oct 8 2012: Generally speaking, this is not a sound idea, any more than for those without expertise in medicine to take over the medical clinic, for those without expertise in scientific research to run the research lab, or for those without legal expertise to structure the legal case for the courtroom.

    I think further politicizing education at the school level distracts students and teachers from what their primary focus should be.

    Student learning needs to be the focus of the school building.
    That said, it is important for parents and the general public to understand better what is going on in terms of the curriculum and pedagogical approach in schools. I am repeatedly astonished at what those outside schools assume or suspect is going on inside them that is completely false or out of date. One is that modern schools are focused on memorization and rote learning. But there are so many miscomceptions.
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      Oct 8 2012: Some of this is being popularized by the new movie "Won't Back Down." I live in a state where this is being debated ins the State Legislature and there is a lot of concern going forward.
      • Oct 8 2012: In Hollywood it's mathematics majors volunteering to teach inner city kids calculus, in real life it's fat, dumb teabaggers trying to push creationism into the biology curriculum at a suburban school.

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